How Facebook’s Ad Transparency and New Feed can Impact Marketers

Like any good company, Facebook is continuously adapting and changing to a changing world. And while some of the changes leave us standing on our front porch, yelling at kids to get off of our lawn, many have us excited, both as a user and as a marketer.

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Whenever a new update rolls out, I instantly go into pro-active problem-solver mode: “How will this change things for us? How will our strategy need to adapt to stay ahead of the curve? What exciting opportunities does this present?”

So when the news spread about Facebook’s upcoming, testing two separate feeds, one a dedicated space for friends and family, and another for pages, I immediately started thinking about what this could mean for marketing gurus and how we need to adapt our strategy. The two feeds are being tested in Guetemala, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia to understand if people like to have separate places for public and personal content. Though Facebook clarified  that they have no plans to roll this out globally, the reality is that organic reach for Facebook pages has been on the decline for years. Moreover, Explore Feed rolled out globally on October 23 to allow users to discover more content beyond posts from pages and friends they like. While this isn’t the same as the testing going on in other countries, it’s always good to be prepared for what’s to come.

How can marketers stay ahead of any changes in the Facebook’s algorithm, should the two newsfeeds roll out? What organic best practices can we utilize to make sure we’re thinking forward? Four experts from our digital teams were able to offer not only great insights but potential solutions.

Implications

Scott Minor, Online Marketing Manager, says, “I’m glad to hear this isn’t planned globally. I wonder to what extent Pages could counter this move by having influencers share posts to increase their organic reach? From the advertising side, we’re more concerned with how overly crowded the News Feed is becoming. That has been our effective placement for ads. Particularly for our smallest, targeted audiences, we may have to deploy more placements like Audience Network, Instagram, and others.”

“To me, this sounds like Facebook Inc is inching more closer to a Google Adwords approach—a war between advertisers. Big companies may not feel any difference, but I imagine that this will impact small businesses. It’s already very difficult to advertise against competitors with a minimal budget. What differentiated Facebook from search engines was that you can like a page. Even if they’re not advertising, SMB pages have a better chance of being seen if they can achieve a user’s Like. It sounds like, through the introduction of separate newsfeed, small pages’ paid posts will sink under big competition, and organic posts will never see the light of day again. I like several pages and enjoy their content. Still, it doesn’t mean I remember or am willing to check said pages daily to see if they posted anything new recently. Out of sight, out of short-attention-span mind.”—Favian Castillo, Digital Marketing Specialist

Social Strategy and Explore Feed

“Organically, business pages have seen a steady decline in reach on Facebook for the last few years. However, there have been ways  to increase organic engagement, namely Livestream, events, and funny or motivational videos, that do not directly make Facebook money. If this is implemented, it could have a significant effect on small businesses that won’t be able to foot the costs needed to get their posts seen.

The way I see it, the novel Explore Feed could go one of two ways: users could adopt it as a news aggregator similar to an Apple Newsfeed that they check for updates, blogs, and articles, or they could completely disregard it and treat it as a spam folder.

Facebook is in the business to make money. What will most likely happen is that a default to the “Explore Feed” for organic posts, and additional charges to be placed in user feeds. We’ve been way too eager to pay to play, so businesses will most likely have to pay even more to get themselves out of the “explore” jail.”—Lisa Marcyes, Senior Social Media Manager

Organic Best Practices

Tristan Esposo, Social Media Specialist, had some excellent insights into what marketers can do to make sure their organic strategy is aligned with their best practices.

Be Consistent and Timely

First rule-of-thumb: post frequently. For us, this means at least two times a day—it’s an excellent place to start, but it’s always essential to test to see what works for you. We usually schedule posts every morning (6am-8am) and around noon (10am-1pm). Posting frequency is vital for your business, especially when you want to build engagement and post impressions. The average Facebook feed generates thousands of content from favorites companies to friends. Without overdoing it, posting atleast twice a day can guarantee consistency and a higher chance to be discovered.

Keep Your Posts Short and Specific

We typically like to keep organic posts to about 1 to 1 ½ lines in desktop view,  2 at most, but that could also appear lengthy. Keeping our audience’s attention is our goal, and adding a few extra words to the posts could mean the difference. Most of the big-name brands have seen more success with shorter, concise content. According to Jeff Bullas, “40 character Facebook posts receive 86 percent more engagement over others. 80-character Facebook posts receive 66 percent more engagement over others.”

Understand Your Audience

All of our social media handles have different audiences, so we must format our messaging with them in mind. For LinkedIn and Facebook, we look to change the message, despite having the same asset. For us, we must study our audience and know how to target them. So knowing their gender, age, region/location, etc.  Ultimately, it’s about figuring out what works best for our audience.

Utilize the Video Feature

We love adding videos to our feed. According to Facebook, “videos earn 135 percent more reach than posts with only an image.” For us, we’ve noticed videos generate the right amount of viewership, from comments to shares.

Transparency in Advertising

Facebook has also announced ad transparency and ad authenticity features. According to Rob Goldman, VP of Advertisements in a press release from October 27, “people will be able to click “View Ads” on Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger—whether or not the user viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad. All Pages will be a big part of this effort, and we will require that all ads be associated with a Facebook Page as part of the ad creation process. We will start this test in North America and roll it out to the US by this summer, ahead of the US elections in November, as well as broadly to all other countries around the same time.”

Aimed at political transparency during elections, this feature is in line with a similar action Twitter has taken with its Transparency Center. For marketers, this can be an exciting way to look at the competition’s digital hand when creating your strategy, and something to keep in mind when creating multi-tiered promotions and offers. It also may make you think twice before writing a scathing ad trashing your competition.

Ultimately, time will tell how these planned changes will impact marketing. As an adaptable group that used to responding to, and driving, change, I’d love to hear how you might be changing your marketing strategy in response to Facebook’s latest testing and ad transparency changes. Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments section.